How does the books market look like?

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de...

Europe’s challenge from a publishing perspective is that it consists mainly of small markets that lack the volume of readers and investment needed to build expensive pan-European eBook platforms and apps that can compete with Amazon and Kobo. Spanish is the only European language apart from English that has a big reach outside its country of origin. This means that most publishers are confined to selling books within their own borders.

The European Commission, which is driving the harmonisation of EU business markets, has become so alarmed by the lack of integration between European publishers that it has issued a ‘books without frontiers’ declaration, arguing that there should be no national barriers to buying eBooks. The Commission has also proposed a neutral value-added-tax regime for books (in the UK, printed book sales are VAT-free, but eBooks are charged at the highest VAT rate of 20%).

The Commission has called for open standards: at present, eReaders such as Amazon’s Kindle use digital-rights-management software to keep readers within its ‘walled garden’. Brussels wants any book bought to be transferable between devices.

According to a PwC study launched today, Western Europe’s eBook market is fragmented along national lines and struggles to make up 6% of the total book market in 2012.

Market shares for eBooks fluctuate between countries where they have taken hold, such as the Netherlands (5% of all books sold) and Spain (4%), and territories such as Germany, Europe’s biggest single market, where eBooks have only a 3% share. Norway has the highest share with a 20% market share.

So, what figures are we talking about?

The study shows that the market for consumer and educational books in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) generated revenues of US$37.4bn in 2012, down from revenue of US$38.1bn in 2008. Revenue is forecast to be flat between 2012 and 2017, totalling US$37.0bn in 2017.

EMEA is the largest region for sales of consumer and educational books. Germany is the biggest individual territory, accounting for nearly 25% of all books sold and posting revenue of US$8.9bn in 2012. EBooks is expected to account for 17% of all sales in the region in 2017, up from 5% in 2012. Consumer eBooks may show the most growth, with revenue rising by a CAGR of 28.2% to US$5.0bn in 2017.

Educational books will continue to account for over 30% of the market in the next five years. The sector is expected to grow by a CAGR of 0.2% to be worth US$11.4bn in 2017, compared with US$11.3bn in 2012. Sales of printed educational books, though, could fall by a CAGR of 1.3%, to US$10.2bn, in five years.

For more details see the Global entertainment and media outlook: 2013-2017

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